The half-marathon mama: How I ran my first two half marathons

I randomly started running last year, after three decades of hating & avoiding it. Recently, I have completed my first couple of half marathons, only two weeks apart. When photos from both events emerged, my friends couldn’t refrain from commenting on how happy I look running those 13.1 miles. And I didn’t only look happy, I was happy sweating my baby’s milk containers off.

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I did very little (if any) training beforehand – I managed the odd jog with a buggy, weekly buggy parkruns and one 15K session around Dorney lake (which was by far the longest distance I have ever ran). When it came to the race, my philosophy was to run, run and run some more until I’m at the finish line – and that’s exactly what happened. Boom! I even managed to knock 8 minutes off my first half, and completed Slough half in under 2 hours. Not too shabby for a mum who has no time to train and eat well, right? I found it enjoyable instead of deadly hard. Do you want to know why? Well let me tell you about “hard”:

Soaking wet and shivering with cold after Slough half, we arrived to a pub. At that point, any normal race finisher would order a whole lot of food and flush it down with a gallon of beer, relying on Uber to get home because legs are tired.

I ordered a whole lot of food indeed, but my 6 months old miniature human was hungry – as if he ran the half marathon himself. So I fed him first. Then finally my meal arrived. Just as I was about to grab my first delicious piece of chicken, he went ballistic. Nothing worked and he screamed and screamed. I dragged him out (in rain) hoping he would fall asleep in his buggy. He was howling more and more so I returned to the pub, downed my wine and asked the staff to bag my food up. It was a good 20 minutes walk home, in rain, on aching legs, with a child screaming like an apocalypse survivor being slowly munched on by zombies. No matter how annoying his screams are, I always smile at him (that’s my personal rule) which is mentally exhausting. At home it took another hour of “servicing” him – food, nappy, toys, singing etc. Finally he fell asleep so I started the laundry and washed the dishes (the pile was already enormous). He woke up from his nap just as I was getting out of the shower. Then obviously he needed more “servicing”, including a broccoli dinner that he rubbed into his hair and eyes, and a bath time when he tried to drink the bath water (probably because it had bits of broccoli floating in it). By the time he departed into the dreamland and I (finally) sat down with my reheated pub lunch it was 7 pm. I crossed the half marathon finish line seven and half hours ago. F**k, in seven and half hours I could have completed a marathon and half!! And a marathon and half would most certainly be less exhausting than my standard afternoon anyway.

So when you non-runners say running 13.1 miles must have been tough, and you runners say that I did well so soon after having a baby, I do appreciate and love your support and acknowledgement, but… it was DEAD EASY compared to the never-ending ultra marathon of poops and mushy food and vomit and eternally dirty laundry and high-pitch screams and stupid baby songs on repeat… Easy!! 🙂

You better shape up! Core workout with a baby

Ask anyone who has anything to do with any kind of sport (yup, even the dreadlock-head in yoga pants) and they’ll all confirm the following: Strong core is the key! It will make your life easier, from picking up that little bundle of screaming joy to carrying out all sorts of other motherly duties. Besides, strong core leads to better abs. Yeah, you heard me! A-B-S! Let’s tone those bellies!

Following my post on workout ideas with a baby, here are some core core exercises (if you pardon the pun):

  • Baby sit-ups

As if the dreaded sit-ups were not difficult enough, now you have to do them whilst holding a baby!? Fine, go have a Big Mac instead but…did you know that your husband’s new co-worker is an ex glamour model and finds him kind of hot?

  • Plank

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Hoooollldddd it! For as long as you can. Time yourself and aim for a few seconds more each time. Don’t forget to entertain your bubba by reciting a rhyme 😉
Also, make sure you engage your core – not your back, otherwise you’d be in pain and will be hating me.

  • Plank variations

There are many plank variations so don’t be afraid to get creative. My favourite one is “forearm to full plank”:

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Start in the plank position, then move and straighten your arms, one at a time. Right afterwards go back down to forearm plank, again one arm at a time. And prepare to have your hair pulled 😉

  • Leg raises

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Beside leg raises, you can do many similar exercises (single leg lifts, leg scissors etc.) while holding your baby up above your chest. You might get thrown up on so don’t say I didn’t warn you.

  • Press-ups

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Okay, it might seem that press-ups are all about arms but I promise you they tone your midsection as a whole. There is also a ladies option – to drop on your knees instead.

 

These exercises should give you a good basis for a decent core and abs workout. Don’t worry if you can’t turn into Wonder Woman straight away – it takes time, bit by bit, increase reps each day until you’re so strong that you’ll finally gain authority in your household and even the neighbour’s dog will fear you. You go mama! 

 

 

 

 

 

Workout ideas with a baby

 

Hey mamas! So you want to look good but have no time & money for the gym? Don’t despair! As promised, I put together a few exercises from my routine that is perfectly achievable with a baby. Actually, the baby is an important component of it. All you need is spare 15 mins a day. Plus, I’m pretty sure your little one will have a blast being moved about and watching you sweat 🙂

  • Pram lounges

Step forward with your pram and lounge. Alternate legs.

  • Squats

Use your baby as a medicine ball. Squat and lift him up.

  • Hello firm bum!

Go on all four and lift a leg up. You can also hold your leg up for a certain period of time, or bend your knee lifting your leg to the side. There are many variations… Your child will probably try to pull (and eat) your hair so watch out.

  • Bench press

As your child gets bigger you will get stronger 😉

I still have in store some tips for core and abs exercises that I’ll share with you soon. God knows we need them! In the meantime start slowly and build it up. Be creative. Your baby is probably the cutest piece of gym equipment you’ll ever have, so enjoy!

Don’t bother reading this if you love your post-baby body :)

We all love a good social media rent. Recently I read one about how this mum hates her post-baby body. It was not even a rant – more like a desperate cry in search of souls (and bodies) who feel exactly the same. And gosh, were there plenty of them! I knew that women struggle with their postpartum body image, but I didn’t think so many of them feel so strongly about their far-from-perfect shape and looks.

For me personally, the worst bit was pregnancy itself. I was huge. I gained 18 kgs and hated feeling like an elephant. By the time I popped my baby out I was so terribly fed up that I knew that was it. I had enough! I couldn’t wait to be my former self again.

Mums’ typical problem is that they “don’t have time to go to the gym”. Well, neither have I. I am a single mum who (thank god) has no family in her home country. I can’t afford a baby sitter. So time away from my baby is as rare as a hot, intelligent and single guy. Yet, I managed to get fit and lose 18kgs within 3 months. How, you ask?

Let me give you instructions 🙂

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What you need most of all is dedication and stubborness (which I have plenty of). They say if there is a will, there is a way – and nothing can be more true. They also say that who needs an excuse will always find one. So ladies, if you want to be as fit as before baby, your excuses will have to go. Now! Stop moaning! Stop hating yourself and grabbing biscuits from the tin just to make yourself feel better. Stop it!!! You are a tired emotional wreck, your husband is an unhelpful demanding moron and your kids are screaming little bastards. Yes. We all feel the same. But that’s not an excuse! So get of your arse and do something, and I promise you you will love your body once again!

Okay, there are some things you can’t change, like for example stretchmarks. But let me tell you,  stretchmarks look better on a toned belly than they do on a flabby wiggly one!

When my munchkin was 3 weeks of age I started running. With my pram. No, it’s not a running pram. And no, it’s not recommended to start exercising before your 6 weeks health check. But I did it, mainly because dropping dead from internal bleeding was more acceptable than feeling like a whale any longer.

fitbitshare_1130790125-picsay.JPEGSo grab your pram and instead of strolling through the park, jog. Or if you are unfit, alternate walking and jogging. Let me warn you that you will get some weird looks, mainly from other mums who are sitting on the benches munching on crisps and jelly babies while you are demonstrating (read: rubbing in their face) that there is another way. Also, you need to stay on reasonably straight paths because normal prams are not designed for a run in a dodgy terrain…

I’m a member of a running club so I kept turning up at all possible club events hoping there will be someone injured and/or not running who can look after my baby. 9 out of 10 times it worked so this is my way of saying huge thanks to all the Dashers who babysat Derry while I was sweating my tits off.

20180513_143827.jpgObviously, beside running you need some strength workout. I’m lucky enough to live in an area with free outdoor exercising equipment (see picture) at multiple locations. I either park my pram and do a workout, or use Derry in his baby carrier as a “weight”. I’m currently preparing a blog post describing different exercises you can do with your baby. You can even incorporate a little workout in your daily playtime. Derry loves when I do chest presses with him and always laughs his head off.

Oh btw – once your child is walking and talking, your extra pounds can hardly be called “baby weight” ;)))

So mummies, if I did it so can you! I’m no better than you in any way – I’m just a proof that it can be done! You managed to grow a human so you sure as hell will manage to love the body that made it all possible. And trust me, your evening glass of wine will taste even better after some exercise 😉 So stop moaning and start acting! Chop chop!

 

 

Pre-baby maternity diary: Day 3 #loveparkrun

Let’s skip right to the important bit – the highlight of my day which was volunteering at my local parkrun for the first time ever. If you don’t know what parkrun is then you’re missing on some seriously good stuff in your life. It’s a 5K run in your local park that takes place every Saturday morning. If you consider your chances of surviving a 5K run as strong as winning the lottery, do not despair. You don’t need to run, you can walk. Or crawl.

My favourite thing about parkrun is that it’ll be exactly what you make it: a life-or-death race, a part of your marathon training, an opportunity to catch up with friends, a casual stroll in the park, or an unconventional hangover cure. On top of that, it’s all about the community. Parkrunners are friendly and welcoming. If you turn up alone not knowing anyone, at around your 2nd kilometer you’ll have a few new friends (unless you’re sprinting so fast that you leave everyone behind).

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Parkrun is totally free because it’s ran (if you pardon the pun) by volunteers. Being grateful for all this, I felt it was time for me to give something back and volunteer. Besides, at over 35 weeks pregnant, my ability to run equals my ability to resist cookie dough ice cream in my freezer (i.e. it’s pretty weak). A couple weeks ago, a friend of mine mentioned that I look like I’m running while I’m really more like shuffling about. So clearly it was time for me to don a hi-viz jacket and be a tail walker alongside the friend who insulted my running style.

It was a great fun! I enjoyed myself so much that next week I’ll be back doing exactly the same – tail walking and picking up those of you who pass out as a result of previous night’s Guinness consumption. It’ll be St. Paddy’s day! I’ve got shamrock face stickers ready, so head to Upton Court parkrun in Slough, or check where your local one is.

Exercising in pregnancy

A couple years ago, I overheard one of our gym regulars excitingly announcing her new pregnancy. That was the last time I’ve seen her in the gym…

Far too often, a positive pregnancy test brings an end to one’s exercise routine. As if it’s not important any more. In my uneducated opinion, in pregnancy, exercise is more important that ever. Not only you are accountable for your own health and body, but you also have a full responsibility for well-being of your little one. I strongly believe that keeping fit is absolutely crucial. So here are my top points why I think you should carry on exercising:

(I am no healthcare professional so my opinions are based on research, personal experience and common sense.)

  1. First of all, exercising keeps you sane. It is widely known that physical activity reduces stress, and trust me, over the nine months you’ll experience a plenty of it.
  2. It raises your confidence. When I squat a weight equal to my peers while my belly is sticking out I sure as hell feel good about myself!
  3. Besides, exercise burns calories and speeds up your metabolism which will come in handy because, let’s admit it, you have one cookie too many on….uhmmmm….a daily basis.
  4. It’s fun! When you have fun, your baby has fun.
  5. It’s sociable. Pregnancy related tiredness often forces you to stay in, rest and socialise less. Popping to the gym with your friend or going for a jog with your running club is a great way of getting some human contact while doing something beneficial for your body.
  6. It energizes you. So many times I crawled home from work exhausted and had to use all my willpower to force myself to the gym. After finishing my spin class I was skipping home happy and full of energy like a spring baby lamb.
  7. Finally, my favourite reason to exercise is that it makes your baby smarter. No kidding! Numerous studies have been conducted and their conclusions suggest that exercising in pregnancy increases your baby’s brain activity. So get moving and grow yourself a little Einstein 🙂 (Check some articles here and here.)

20171231_105645.jpgNow what kind of exercise should you do you ask? My midwife’s advice is to carry on with what you’re used to. Unless of course you are a cage fighter or a ski jumper… Just use common sense. Anything that poses an increased risk of falling off something or getting punched in your belly is obviously a no no. On the other hand, don’t be overly precious. The chances of you sustaining an injury when pedaling on a spin bike are much lower than chances of being run over when walking to McDonalds. I remember how I laughed when a friend whispered to me during a yoga class: “Are you sure it’s safe for you to do this?” I was still in my first trimester so there was no belly preventing me from doing my favourite yoga poses. Please don’t be too worried about what you are allowed and not allowed to do when pregnant, otherwise you’ll make your life a living hell which will have a far worse effect on your baby’s well-being than holding a downward dog pose for a little too long…

FB_IMG_1513015133639.jpgBefore I was becoming a mummy I was a gym freak who always pushed herself hard. Since then I eased off on intensity but not on dedication. The rule of thumb is to listen to my body. If something doesn’t feel right I don’t do it. If I need a break I take it. I aim for 4 to 5 days of exercise a week. This usually consists of one or two spin classes, one weights session or a body pump class, a swim and my local Saturday parkrun (yeah, that’s me on the photos – doing some resistance training and finishing 5K). Overall, this blend keeps me in a good shape and a good spirit, and I sure as hell am not overdoing it. I eliminated heavy weight lifting (now I opt for more reps and lower weight) and long runs (over 10K) with my running club.

If you did zero exercise before, it may seem like a hardcore routine that would be the death of you. I understand. But it’s not all lost. You can take on walking, swimming or some other gentle activities. At the end of the day, using the stairs instead of the lift, or walking not driving to your local Starbucks is a great start. Baby steps 😉

Although I appreciate that a growing belly and brewing hormones are the perfect excuse to sit on the sofa, binge watch Love Island, binge eat Ben and Jerry’s and binge nap in between, please do get up and make an effort. If not for yourself, then for your baby. They rely on you!